Throwing error allows Gamecocks to beat Gators in CWS

Published 2:03 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — Christian Walker, cleared to play with a broken wrist a half-hour before the game, scored from first base on two throwing errors in the 11th inning and defending champion South Carolina beat Florida 2-1 in Game 1 of the College World Series final Monday night.

In a finish that looked a lot like their 13-inning win over Virginia on Friday, the Gamecocks (54-14) performed defensive magic late, throwing out two runners at home plate in the bottom of the ninth and another in the 10th.

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“In close games like that you just try to keep fighting,” said left fielder Jake Williams, whose perfect throw home kept Florida from scoring the winning run in the 10th. “You try to make the plays you can make and get someone to move them over and get them in. You’ve got to do little things in close games like that and hopefully come out in the positive. We’ve been able to do that.”

Game 2 in the best-of-three finals between the Southeastern Conference rivals is Tuesday night.

Walker, who fractured his left wrist in the win over Virginia, singled up the middle to start the 11th. Florida catcher Mike Zunino threw into center field as Walker stole second. Walker took off for third and was awarded home after Bryson Smith’s throw from the outfield bounced away from Cody Dent and into the stands.

South Carolina coach Ray Tanner didn’t put Walker into the lineup until after he had a good showing in batting practice. Walker is batting .355 to lead the Gamecocks.

“I knew it was going to take a lot of pain for me not to play,” Walker said. “For the last half of yesterday, I didn’t think I was going to be able to play.”

John Taylor (8-1) got the win and Matt Price earned his 19th save. Nick Maronde (0-1) took the loss — Florida’s first in 47 games in which it had led after the seventh inning.

The Gamecocks reached the finals on Friday with a 3-2, 13-inning win over Virginia in which Adam Matthews scored the winning run after Cavaliers reliever Cody Winiarski botched two throws after fielding bunts.

South Carolina survived bases-loaded predicaments in the 10th, 12th and 13th innings on Friday and did it again Monday in the ninth.

Taylor walked Zunino leading off, and Brian Johnson ripped a single after initially trying to move Zunino over with a sacrifice. Taylor intentionally walked Josh Adams to load the bases and set up forces all around.

Tyler Thompson’s grounder sent second baseman Scott Wingo diving to his right to make the stop. Wingo got up and threw home, with catcher Robert Beary picking up the low throw in time to get Zunino.

Then Daniel Pigott sent a soft grounder to Wingo. Wingo threw home again, and Beary went to first to finish the double play.

“We were able to get a couple of at-’em balls to keep them from taking the lead, and Jake throws out a guy at the plate,” Tanner said. “We were just very fortunate to be able to win tonight.”

Dent singled leading off the bottom of the 10th against Taylor and moved up on Nolan Fontana’s sacrifice bunt. Taylor intentionally walked the left-handed Preston Tucker to get a righty-righty matchup against the slumping Zunino.

Zunino drove a hot grounder into left for what looked like the game-winning hit. But Williams picked it up and came up throwing. Beary caught the ball on a line in plenty of time, then shuffled to his right to tag out Dent and start a celebration in the Gamecocks’ dugout.

“They’re the defending national champs for a reason,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said.

The loss spoiled a brilliant performance by Florida starter Hudson Randall, who has now allowed one run or less in 10 of his 19 starts this season. He left with two out in the eighth after having allowed just three hits.

Randall retired 10 straight hitters from the fourth to seventh innings and 18 of 19 during one stretch before the Gamecocks got to him, tying it on Wingo’s single up the middle.

Wingo, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 11th-round draft pick, slapped Randall’s 2-2 pitch right back at the pitcher to break an 0-for-9 slump. Randall swiped at the ball with his glove and then pumped his right fist in frustration as it rolled into center field and Peter Mooney scored.

Randall said the ball tipped his glove.

“I just didn’t get it down in time,” he said.

Florida manufactured its run in the third after South Carolina starter Forrest Koumas walked Thompson to start the inning. Thompson went to second on a groundout and to third on Koumas’ wild pitch before scoring on Dent’s sacrifice fly.